Marvel Exec Backpedals After Suggesting Diversity to Blame for Comic Book Sales Slump

Spider-Man Miles Morales
Courtesy of Marvel

After being praised for its promotion of diversity, a Marvel executive suggested this weekend that the publishing company’s newest superheroes may have caused a slump in comic book sales.

Last week, while at the Marvel Retailer Summit, Marvel’s senior vice president of print, sales, and marketing, David Gabriel, created an uproar after implying that the addition of racially diverse and female characters could have led to a sales decline.

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“What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity,” Gabriel told iCv2 after being asked what contributed to changes in customer tastes that led to a drop in sales in October-November. “They didn’t want female characters out there. That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.”

He also cited economic reasons and Marvel’s release of “too much product” as other possible causes for the downturn in sales.

“We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against,” Gabriel added. “That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.”

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Gabriel later reached out to iCv2 to clarify his comments, stressing that new heroes Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Moon Girl are indeed popular and “are not going anywhere.”

“Discussed candidly by some of the retailers at the summit, we heard that some were not happy with the false abandonment of the core Marvel heroes and, contrary to what some said about characters ‘not working,’ the sticking factor and popularity for a majority of these new titles and characters like Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Moon Girl, continue to prove that our fans and retailers ARE excited about these new heroes,” he said in a statement to iCv2. “And let me be clear, our new heroes are not going anywhere! We are proud and excited to keep introducing unique characters that reflect new voices and new experiences into the Marvel Universe and pair them with our iconic heroes.”

“We have also been hearing from stores that welcome and champion our new characters and titles and want more!” he continued. “They’ve invigorated their own customer base and helped them grow their stores because of it. So we’re getting both sides of the story and the only upcoming change we’re making is to ensure we don’t lose focus of our core heroes.”

Marvel has been making an attempt to bring more people of color and women into starring roles in their books in the past few years. Biracial teen Miles Morales became Spider-Man in 2011, Sam Wilson (formerly known as the Falcon) picked up the mantle of Captain America, Jane Foster became the latest Thor, Riri Williams — a 15-year-old black woman — suited up as the newest Iron Man (she goes by Ironheart), Kamala Khan — a Pakistani-American from Jersey City — is Ms. Marvel, and more have stepped into the spotlight of their own series.

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Brie Larson is set to play Captain Marvel in a standalone film in 2019.

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  1. Soon to be Famous says:

    Marvel has decided to sacrifice itself and its employees to the altar of political correctness. Have fun on the unemployment line, Marvel.

  2. Michael says:

    I don’t care about more diversity, most people don’t. I care that you don’t make new characters because when you do they fail and so you try to steal popular characters readership by just changing the gender/race etc. often with bad story ideas too. Could you imagine if we suddenly changed Wonder Woman to a man? Oh, I can just picture how that would go down. So thanks for messing up with some of my favorite superheroes – don’t expect me to buy the new ones.

  3. hendo337 says:

    Blaming the customers isn’t a good policy, especially when the customers valid complaints have nothing to do with being against diversity. Not wanting titles that are half assed attempts instead of actually exciting, new, compelling books isn’t unreasonable. The fact that their idea of diversity is to do what they did is extremely insulting to everyone who might buy a book, the fact they don’t realize it means that they are being forced fed an agenda by a moron or they don’t understand what actual racism is.

  4. We have no problem with more “diversity” what we have a problem with is eliminating classic characters to make way for gender/ethnic palette swaps of them. Its insulting to both the original character than the replacement. Create original, diverse characters, or change the focus to background characters that fit this criteria. Instead of having a female Thor, just focus on Sif, maybe give her, her own book.

  5. billy@sillywilly.com says:

    How are they “Fresh new exciting ideas” if no one likes them but you?! Time to stop blowing smoke up your own ass if you actually want to make money from your comics!!!

  6. NB says:

    Their divisive comments after the election alienated a large part of their audience. It seems odd that celebrities and corporations don’t understand that insulting people might turn off some fans. Also, no one wants Thor to be a woman. Just sayin …

  7. kyryllo says:

    As much people want to suggest otherwise, most people rooting for “diversity” aren’t part of a core audience, as such trying to make comics for them is making comics for people who aren’t buying them in the first place. Also you can’t replace iconic characters with divers cast and wait for same reception as before. Simply put, marvel didnt tried to create new teams or new story lines with diverse characters, they just gender/color swapped already established characters, which didnt resonate as well as they expect to. Honestly as somebody who always loved x-men as most diverse team with tons of interesting characters, Im having hard time to emotionally invest in nobodies they were forcefully shoehorned into storyline in the name of so called diversity.

  8. John Smith says:

    Sales are poor create a distraction to try to cover for marketing and subpar product.

  9. Punchymcgregor says:

    The problem is the Jewishness of the comic book industry has gotten loose and is killing the industry with marxist nonsense to brainwash a new generation that may have escaped the last 20 years in America. Straight White males (the core audience) want to read about straight white male heroes. There is NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS! The real question that should be asked now is, why are the jews at marvel (and everywhere) so Anti-white

    • (((A Wild Jew Appears))) says:

      Do you have any real proof, beyond reading some random /pol/(A lot of which are just trollin by the way), or “Stormfront” conspiracy, that it’s Jews? As a Jew who hates and protested what Marvel did to my favorite characters, namely Thor and Iron Man, I have to say I wholely disagree with everything you say. You think using Jews as a scapegoat for all your problems is going to solve anything? You’re just delusional, bro.

    • This is by far one of the most anti-Semitic rants I’ve ever read. What are you talking about “the Jewishness of the comic book industry”? How is writing with diverse characters equate to Marxism? There is absolutely no correlation to your racist rant. “Straight white males want to read about straigh white male heroes.” The creators at Marvel are not anti-white, considering that a plethora of characters are white and male: Cyclops, Ice Man, Magneto, Prof. X, Wolverine, Morph, Havek, Punisher, Iron Man, Dead Pool, Spider-Man, Capt. America, Winter Soldier, Thor, Loki, etc. Just because they want to change a character’s ethnicity doesn’t make them anti-white. You’re just a racist, a purist who hates seeing his characters change.

  10. Nick B says:

    We are repeatedly flogged over the head with the mantra: “The color of your skin doesn’t matter!” Except to the Diversity Nazis, it very much matters. For them the diversity found in EVERY human, that of thoughts and experiences is trumped by needing to have a “fair” amount of skin colors and biological types. It’s a very flawed assumption that unfortunately is currently a fad worthy of blacklisting people who don’t share the Diversity Nazi’s ideologies.

    • Nick B says:

      To clarify my previous post, I happen to fully agree with the mantra: “The color of your skin doesn’t matter!”. But, literally. So much so, in fact, that I don’t believe diversity comes from colors or biological types. Therefore I disagree with Diversity Nazis and the need for re-working characters.

  11. dyanna653 says:

    I sales are down because of ignorant people. Here is ur sign.

  12. It’s not that people dislike diversity. It’s that more than anything else, the most important to Disney became: NO major characters can be straight white males any more. That consideration of “no straight white males” outweighed the importance of history or storyline. Even in the rare instances when a straight white male was allowed–I’m thinking of Spiderman and Captain America-it was only with the stipulation that there must be two versions of the same character, and one of them had to be a minority.

    • Tastentier says:

      As a long-time Marvel fan, I share the frustration over the (likely temporary) loss of some of my favorite heroes, such as Tony Stark and the original Thor. But to say that there are no straight, white & male main characters anymore is hyperbole imho. Aside from Peter Parker, who has multiple ongoing titles, there is Stephen Strange (also featured in multiple titles right now), Matt Murdock, Deadpool, Danny Rand, Peter Quill aka Star-Lord, Frank Castle and Bucky, who currently leads the all-white and mostly male Thunderbolts team. You might notice a trend here: All these characters are quite popular right now thanks to successful movies and Netflix shows. Marvel only feels the need to switch things up when a series isn’t selling, which was apparently the case for their Iron Man titles.

      Other straight white male A-listers include Cable, Johnny Storm and Quicksilver, who are currently on Steve Rogers’ Uncanny Avengers team. The New Avengers team features Cannonball, Wiccan and Hulkling. Sam Alexander, the current Nova, has his own title and is also on the Champions team along with the young Cyclops, who also stars in two X-Men titles alongside Angel and a young, furless Beast. The older X-Men team features Logan, Colossus and Nightcrawler (who feels very white underneath his blue fur). Then there are several Inhuman titles who feature characters like Black Bolt, Karnak, Gorgon and Maximus alongside white male “nuhumans” such as Reader and Frank McGee. And of course there’s Loki, Namor, Hercules, Ben Grimm, Flash Thompson aka Venom, Hyperion and so on.

      That’s already over 30 straight white male Marvel heroes just from the top of my head. I think if you were to sit down and compile a comprehensive list, you’d find that men still constitute more than half of all Marvel characters, white individuals are still the largest superhero demographic, and LGBT characters are still far and few between. I can count the number of male LGBT heroes on one hand, which makes the qualifier straight in your complaint seem especially unnecessary. Once again, I understand where your frustration is coming from, but I really don’t think that Marvel’s mostly straight, white and male writers hold a grudge against straight white men. They’re merely trying to sell comics and keep things interesting in a time where diversity seems critical for growth and business success, and sometimes these efforts feel like they’re going a little overboard.

  13. They caused themselves a problem by taking away choice. They gave us a bunch of, mostly very good, new characters. But instead of letting us “find them” or grow to like them as we read our established likes, they took away their core characters. Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Thor Odinson (Slightly different as there is a massive story arc and character progression regarding Thor & Jane Foster Thor.)

    We didn’t like Venom because they killed all Spider–Man’s other villains off. These are good characters in interesting stories, but taking away people’s beloved characters in what feels like a “read the new stuff, or else.” strategy is foolish. And some have replied/…”Or else what?”

    • Anthony K says:

      I actually think rewriting mainstay comic book heroes is a terrible idea especially when forced diversity comes into play. Captain America is one character who has been retooled a lot over the years and it’s always failed. Fans liked the idea of a “reanimated” Steve Rogers who was a WW II hero and patriot dealing with his own personal situations.
      The Hulk as a tortured Bruce Banner who in reality sacrificed his future as a normal human being to save a young teen.
      Spiderman who has his future altered unexpectedly as a teen on his way to become a well known scientist.
      Thor is always “Odinson” because that’s the way Norse mythology represented him.
      Each and every time a main character is replaced, sales drop. This is just the latest in a “diversity” attempt which is an awful idea already proven wrong.
      Not only that, but hasn’t the idea of “cultural misappropriation” already been talked about in the media? It’s come home to roost and made a mess of the coop. Put everything back and concentrate on developing good stories with what was originally written.

  14. Mike D says:

    I think the problem is that they alienate the core fans by applying a very obvious politically correct agenda. There is nothing wrong, and everything right with introducing new Super hero’s of all different ethnicities/genders and sexual orientation. The problem is, when these agendas effect and take over already established and beloved characters. This might appease the sjw base, but are they even customers? Are they truly fans? I’m seeing a rapid rejection of forced social justice. When it’s being pushed as aggressively and obviously as Marvel has, it turns people off. I don’t personally know anyone who is against equality of every kind. But people don’t want their passions and hobbies tacked onto an obvious agenda.

  15. Bret D says:

    The last original characters were Cable and Deadpool. No one wants to create new characters than see Marvel make all the money. There are 2 generations that are missing original characters.

  16. Kate says:

    I agree that there’s too much product. And yes, some people don’t want diversity at all. But I think some people may not mind diversity, but do mind having core characters replaced. I’m in that category. As a Black woman, I welcome more people of color and women in leading roles in comics, TV, and movies. However, I’d rather they create new characters or beef up existing supporting characters rather than replace iconic characters. RiRi could be Tony’s protege Ironheart. She didn’t have to be Iron Man with a new name. Falcon already exists, so why not elevate him to an A-list character? At least there’s been a precedent for other Caps besides Steve, so that’s not the most egregious “replacement.” Jane Foster as Thor, however, seems ridiculous.

    • I’m no totally disagreeing with you here. But if you read Jason Aaron’s entire run on Thor, you’ll get the Jane Foster thing and, probably, love it. Not that I’m not eager to see Thor Odinson get a Hammer again.

      However I’ve been reading Thor a Long time and somebody else being Thor for extended periods is nothing new at all.

      • Mike Ceres says:

        I think what she’s saying is having her -named- Thor is ridiculous. Why can’t she have her own identity instead of piggybacking off of a man? That’s the question so many ignore about these PC adaptations.

  17. txpatriot says:

    Whether true or not, you are not allowed to say such things in these politically-correct times we live in.

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